After a flood, be sure to dry out and disinfect all surfaces that came into contact with floodwater.

First make sure your building is safe to enter in regard to gas, electricity and building structure. Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims. Also, wear rubber boots, a safety mask and water proof gloves to handle contaminated items while photographing and cleaning. Wash your hands and face often—with soap and drinking-quality water.

Using Cleaning Products
Before using any product, read the label. It’s important to understand that cleaners remove dirt, and disinfectants stop growth of disease causing germs. NEVER mix chlorine bleach with ammonia. Together they make toxic fumes. Experts suggest combining chlorine bleach at a ratio of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to disinfect furniture and rugs. Trisodium phosphate cleans hard surfaces, walls, woodwork, linoleum floors and tiles. Liquid cleaners can remove mud, silt and greasy deposits. Liquid detergents work on washable textiles. Use diluted bleach if item is safe for bleach.

Clean Up Your Home
Once you have cleared the standing water and removed the wet materials for further cleaning or disposal, you can begin the cleanup of the building itself.

Walls, floors, doors, closets, and shelves should all be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Many common household cleaners and disinfectants can be used for this process. In addition, if your ductwork has also been in contact with floodwaters, FEMA recommends that you also disinfectant and sanitize them as well.

Keep in mind that many household cleaning products contain substances that can either irritate some individuals or actually be toxic if used improperly. Make sure to always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. You can provide fresh air by opening windows and doors.

Remove Standing Water
Standing water is a perfect breeding ground for many microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and molds. They can cause disease or trigger allergic reactions in many individuals. Problems with infectious diseases can also occur if the floodwaters contain or have been contaminated with sewage. In addition, the longer the building materials stand in contact with water, the more structural damage that can potentially occur. Therefore, it is important to remove all standing water from the home as quickly as possible after a flood. Even when the flooding is due to a fairly clean source, such as rain water, the growth of these microorganisms can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Protect Against Mold
Things you can do to prevent mold growth:

  • Maintain your AC system. Regular maintenance, such as making sure your drain lines are clear, is essential. If you notice condensation, your system may not be dehumidifying adequately, and you should consult a repair professional.
  • Don’t turn off that AC! You’re leaving town for a few weeks, so turn the AC off and save some money, right? In warm and humid environments, the AC does more than cool things down, it de-humidifies. In humid periods this is critical. Turn it up, but not off, and keep the fan on at all times. Mold does not like dry air that circulates! The relative humidity in your home should be between 30 percent and 50 percent at all times.
  • Check for leaks. Water can get into your home in a variety of ways-cracks in walls, gaps in window flashings, leaky roofs (especially around chimneys and vents), and of course, all of your plumbing systems. Inspect and repair these problems when they are first detected.
  • Act quickly. If you have a water leak, promptly shut off the water source and remove standing water and all moist materials. Consider contacting an emergency water removal company right away if you believe the amount of water may warrant expert attention. Remember to promptly report damage to your insurance company.
  • Ventilate. Mold may grow fast in humid air. Ventilate rooms with a fan, particularly bathrooms and kitchens, or crack open a window.
  • Check your washing machine hoses. Every day there are stressed, cracked washing machine hoses that fail and flood homes. Replace them if signs of wear are showing.
  • Replace that worn out water heater. These are infamous for flooding the inside of homes when a little rust on the side turns into a big leak. Replace it now if it is showing signs of deterioration. A drain pan will help properly dispose of any water from a leaky water heater.
  • Open the blinds. Mold likes dark, damp areas. Open the blinds and expose all of your rooms to sunlight periodically.
  • Close the shower curtain. A wet, bunched up curtain traps moisture. Building codes require fans in bathrooms for a reason; turn them on during and after bathing or showering.
  • Keep all clothing dry. A common mistake is to toss wet clothes in a hamper. Air-dry them first or wash right away.
  • Clean up and kill the mold. When it starts to grow, kill the mold immediately. Consult the EPA Mold Remediation guidelines.
  • Board up after wind damage. If your home sustains wind or other external damage from a storm, board it up promptly, especially during the rainy season. There are many emergency services that will do this for you. Materials such as plastic tarpaulins and plywood can be obtained at any local home improvement store.
  • Eliminate standing water. Adequate drainage outside, adjacent to, and especially under your home is essential. Standing water under a home can cause high humidity levels inside and cause floors to warp and buckle.
  • Moisture control is the key to mold control, according to the EPA. The EPA recommends keeping your household relative humidity between 30 percent and 50 percent, and points out that you can monitor this with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive ($10-$50) instrument available at any home improvement stores.

Dry Everything
Drying everything in a home after a flood is imperative. Excess moisture in the home poses an indoor air quality concern for the following reasons: Areas with this high level humidity and moist materials provide an ideal environment for the growth of microorganisms, which could result in additional health hazards such as allergic reactions. Coming into contact with air or water that contains these microorganisms can make a person sick. Long-term high levels of humidity can foster growth of dust mites, which are a major trigger of allergic reactions and asthma. Although the drying process can take a long time, homeowners should be patient because it is necessary to keep a home’s air quality healthy. Some household items may take longer than others to dry, such as upholstered furniture and carpets. To avoid growth of microorganisms, however, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back in the house.

Credit: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc.